SANTA CLARA – Fullback Kyle Juszczyk is excited about returning to Baltimore for a weekend visit.
He played his first four NFL seasons with the Ravens, and three years later, he is thankful for the path his career took when he signed with the 49ers as a free agent.
“I couldn’t be happier with how things turned out,” Juszczyk said. “Honestly, I’m just more genuinely happy here. I like my role. I like the work environment better here.
“And it’s been really cool to build from the ground up, whereas when I went to Baltimore, they’d just won a Super Bowl. So I was just adding on to what was already there. Here, I was part of creating that culture, starting from the ground up.”
Many questioned the 49ers at the outset of free agency in 2017 when one of the first moves of the John Lynch-Kyle Shanahan regime was to extend a four-year, $21 million contract offer to Juszczyk. The day after he made his verbal commitment, the New York Jets offered him more money.
“We wanted him pretty bad,” Shanahan said. “I think everyone knows that by what we did to go out and get him. I’d say he exceeded expectations because you don’t know the guy totally. He’s been here, and after being with him three years, we can tell now why we liked him so much on tape because he is very talented. But just how automatic he is in all the stuff you ask him to do, just the angles of getting the ‘backers.
“Nothing seems too big for him. Some of the catches he’s made in the pass game, even though he doesn’t get a lot of them, when he does, he’s been real efficient with it and made some big plays for us.”
Juszczyk has earned the NFL’s biggest contract for a fullback during his three seasons with the club. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in both of his first two seasons with the 49ers. The 49ers are one of the few teams that run a lot of two-back personnel groups. Juszczyk is an outstanding lead-blocker who is adept at coming up with big catches when he can exploit matchups.
His weekly paychecks are not the only reason he feels fortunate to be with Shanahan and the 49ers.
“I love the way he runs the team,” Juszczyk said. “I feel like he has such a good understanding of what it’s like to be a player. Little stuff, like scheduling and our nutrition and just the way we practice. It’s little things like that, day-in and day-out.”
Juszczyk even raved about the food in the team cafeteria as “off the charts.”
He said, “Every day, they have something great. It’s whatever they got.”
After struggling through two seasons with 6-10 and 4-12 records, Juszczyk said he believes part of the reason for this season’s turnaround has been the ownership the players have in making sure the 49ers are successful.
“Kyle’s extremely open to input from players,” Juszczyk said. “I feel like he wants that. He gets excited when that happens. We really didn’t have a lot of opportunity for that in Baltimore.”
Juszczyk referenced the yearly change at offensive coordinator during his time with the Ravens. In four seasons, he worked under coordinators Jim Caldwell, Gary Kubiak, Marc Trestman and Marty Mornhinweg.
“There’s been more stability here,” he said. “When I went there, we had a different offensive coordinator every season, and we were always starting over on offense. So here, since I’ve gotten here, we’ve had the same staff, so it’s been good to have that continuity.”